Murder, theft, fraud, a skull cap, a knife, hoax calls, WhatsApp messages, Islamic State and then, a bizarre, final twist — a mobile phone hidden under a car carpet.
A routine investigation into a set of hoax calls made to airports in Bengaluru and New Delhi over the weekend has unearthed the sinister plot of a 34-year-old sales executive to win over his ex-girlfriend by ruining the life of her husband, police said.
On Monday, as M G Gokul was finally arrested, and his neighbour 37-year-old Saju Jose, a techie, and his wife emerged unscathed from the ordeal, the real victim of this crime story was a fourth person — Anuradha. This Ranchi-based Bengali girl had fallen in love with Gokul, from Thrissur, and married him in 2009 but ended up being bludgeoned to death by her husband two months ago as part of his plan, police said.
“He did all this only to marry Jose’s wife who was his batchmate in college,” said Bengaluru police commissioner N S Megharikh.
The final act of this chilling story started playing out in the early hours of Saturday when the terminal manager at Bengaluru airport received a series of WhatsApp messages from 1.23 am that three flights — Lufthansa LH-755, Saudi Arabian Airlines SV-5643, Air France AF-191 — were to be blown up by Islamic State.
Police said the messages, sent from a local Airtel number, included these lines: “Islamic state wins” and “get ready to see fireworks above the sea today”.
These were accompanied by threat calls.
Similar messages and calls went to the Delhi and Mumbai airports from the same number, with the caller providing details of the “attacker”, including pictures of a motorcycle and details of a Facebook account.
Authorities immediately evacuated the Lufthansa and Saudi aircraft while the Air France flight, which had taken off, was called back, evacuated and checked before being cleared to fly.
Meanwhile, another message was sent to the mobile phone of a top telecom executive demanding a ransom, police said.
Bengaluru police finally identified the number as belonging to Jose, an employee of a multinational IT company, residing in the Fernhill Garden apartments in Bengaluru.
The scenes that followed could have been straight out of a suspense thriller.
Electronic tracking showed that the suspect SIM card was still active in Jose’s apartment complex. “Initially, we thought the threats were coming from a mad man since he was staying put at the location from where the messages and calls originated,’’ police sources said.
Police soon reached the complex but a search of Jose’s flat did not lead them to the SIM card. Instead, police found the number was still active in the complex even after Jose was taken out of his flat along with his cell phone.
Police then decided to take Jose’s wife and two children along with them to the station. Ironically, the family was driven to the police station by Gokul in Jose’s car.
But as the car was proceeding towards the station, police found the suspect SIM card was moving with it. That was when police searched the car and found a phone with the suspect SIM inside hidden under the floor carpet. With Jose denying that it was his phone, the needle of suspicion gradually turned to Gokul.
A search of Gokul’s laptop revealed that he had done a Google search of flights leaving the Bengaluru and Delhi airports and saved the details. Also, the Facebook account that airport authorities were directed to was found to have been created on this laptop.
Under sustained interrogation, Gokul revealed the elaborate pursuit of his ex-girlfriend after finding her on social media in 2011 while his own marriage with Anuradha, who he had met in New Delhi while pursuing a management course, was on the rocks after he began suspecting her fidelity.
As part of his plot, Gokul told police, he got a transfer to Bengaluru this March and moved into the same apartment complex where his college friend was staying with her husband and two children.
Given custody of a spare key to Jose’s flat, Gokul allegedly stole copies of the techie’s passport and identity documents to purchase the Airtel number and a new mobile phone in June.
Gokul also told police that he had initially considered divorcing Anuradha after manipulating her into sending photos of herself in compromising positions with a student but later decided to kill her to gain custody of their only child, a three-year-old.
On July 28, Gokul is alleged to have manipulated his wife into a drunken state by sending messages on social media in the guise of a spiritual guru. He is alleged to have clubbed her to death with an idol while she was drunk and successfully passed the murder off as a suicide, police said.
”A case of unnatural death was registered. Gokul’s in-laws they did not express any suspicion of foul play,” a police officer said.
After Anuradha’s death, Gokul’s mother Shobana Kumari came to Bengaluru to look after her grandchild, leaving her husband Gopakumar back home in Thrissur’s Muthuvara village — both are retired school teachers.
Meanwhile, police sources said the owner of a mobile phone store identified Gokul as the one who had purchased the SIM card used for the threat calls. Electronic tracking of the card for the day of its activation and its subsequent usage has also revealed that Gokul was the user, the sources said.
”Gokul had gone to such an extent that he even planted a Muslim skull cap and a knife in Jose’s house to portray him as a supporter of radical Islam,’’ the sources said.
Police have also found that Gokul initially tried to get Jose and his wife to separate by faking letters from a Bishop recommending their separation. The couple, however, decided to stay together after being counselled at a religious retreat in Kerala. This pushed Gokul to stage the terror threat, sources said.
(With inputs from Santosh Kumar R B in Bengaluru and Shaju Philip in Thiruvananthapuram)
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines